Alright, so earlier this week I asked the question of which type of wedding would be considered the most formal – morning church, evening church, at-home or venue. The answer? It’s actually an at-home wedding. Let’s jump into the “why” that y’all know I’m so eager to always explain?
Now, remember, this is for the USA, and this is actually the traditional etiquette answer, per Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post. Weddings, by definition, are formal events. This does not equate to formal attire, though. While weddings have been held in churches for centuries, in the USA, it was more common until about the 1950s for weddings to be held at home, provided the bride’s family was wealthy enough to do so. It was considered a very formal affair. Full meals would be provided by servants for hundreds of people. After about the 1820s, families who could afford it went all out for weddings. A minister would still perform the ceremonial part of the wedding, and the reception would commonly follow.
In the 1950s, the USA experienced a religious resurgence with a big push to hold wedding ceremonies in a church building, such as a sanctuary. Still, even then it was popular for the bride’s family to host a full meal and reception at their home or at a family home. As peoples’ homes have decreased in size, the idea of having a receptions at a venue has increased in popularity. In Amy Vanderbilt’s 1954 etiquette book, she declares home weddings “nicest of them all,” showing a preference for tradition over trend. Think plantation home size.
Going by this etiquette precedence, the “nicest” type of wedding and reception a couple would most likely have today would be to have a church wedding and an at-home reception, provided the home is large enough to accommodate a large number of people. It would include a full meal with people serving the meal. An alternative that would be considered just slightly less formal would be a church wedding with a reception at a venue.
Now, if you choose to have a venue wedding, does any of this mean it’s not ok or “nice?” Not even in the least. It is, however, stating that there are certain expectations for choosing a more formal wedding type. That may rub some people the wrong way, but in all areas of life, there are expectations. I have a certain level of expectations when I come to work. Never feel obligated to host any event, including a wedding, that you can’t afford.
Now, going off of the comments, someone mentioned the Royal Wedding between the Duke and Duchess. That, in my opinion, was a perfect combination of old and new. It was a morning church wedding, followed by a luncheon reception. Finally there was an evening “home” reception. The duchess also changed dresses between the events. It was elaborate, but it had an element of youth to it that I loved. She also kept in mind appropriate dress for both venues. As we’ve talked about, the later in the day it gets, the more formal your attire would be. You’d never wear an evening gown to a church, regardless of time, so she kept it before 7 (well before, as it was morning). Prior to the evening event, many of the guests had also changed clothes into more formal threads.
Etiquette helps us to better understand others’ expectations. I hope you enjoyed this post! As always, thank you for reading.